People who are close to me know that I can be a rather pedantic “germaphobe”. I avoid the crockery and cutlery in the office kitchen, refuse to open public toilet doors without being armed with a paper towel, carry a mini bottle of Dettol instant sanitiser in my bag at all times and wash my hands at every opportunity throughout the day.
In my utmost refusal let the bacteria beat me I do pay a fairly hefty price. I would rather have cracking hands than cracking into a fever-induced sweat (sadly no amount of hand-washing saved me from a horrific bout of the flu last week…that’s another story). Last winter, my skin got so bad that it was the subject of a rather open display of office ear bashing from a former colleague, who exclaimed in utmost disgust “Oh my god, your hands!” (Miss B if you’re reading this, despite my humiliation at the time, I do love you for it – my skin especially so!).
What I didn’t know was just how many environmental factors cause dry skin. Or which moisturisers out there actually help. So I did some research…
What is healthy skin?
If you think of your outer most layer of skin like tiles in a bathroom where the hard, protective skin cells are the tiles filled with moisture soaking proteins and the lipids that protect the hard skin cells and proteins make up the layer of grout around tiles, then healthy skin is essentially a well-maintained, well-protected bathroom wall. Your skin also naturally releases water throughout the day into the air – approximately 80 -100 grams per day for healthy, hydrated skin – which is a process affected by the “integrity of the grout and the moisture soaking quality of the tiles” – termed TEWL (Transepidermal Water Loss). Both help regulate the rate of which water is released and healthy skin naturally finds the right balance.
What causes dry skin?
So many factors can impact your skin – it’s incredible to think how resilient it can actually be!
- Dry air – The drier the air the more moisture gets pulled from your skin.
- Washing with soap – The more you wash your skin with soap the more it loses its ability to hold the moisture (running water combined with soap’s ability to break down the “grout” leaves your bathroom tiles exposed!)
- Failing to moisturise – Essentially failing to recognize your dry skin leaves it open to more damage. No, it won’t repair itself if exposed to the same mistreatment day after day. The cracked skin (or grout-less tiled wall) is open to more moisture loss and more dryness in a damaging cycle.
What are the best products to use to treat dry skin?
This is the part I found interesting! The best moisturisers actually contain the right balance of two active ingriedients to help restore moisture to your dry skin. Humectants (e.g. glycerin) help rehydrate the “water-proof” layer of your skin and traps in moisture so that it can restore itself. Occlusives, (e.g. petroleum jelly or Vaseline) acts like a putty-filler and fills in the “missing grout” providing protection against moisture loss, as well as slowing the rate of TEWL so that the skin retains any moisture that would normally be released throughout the day.
I have been through a stack of lotions and potions in an attempt to soothe horribly sore, red and cracked dry skin on my hands. From expensive orange blossom and peony scented French hand crèmes to moisturisers picked up at the chemist, I am ashamed to say most were purchased based on their divine scent. But the top 3 best moisturizers I can hands down vouch for are Alpha Keri’s Ointment, Vaseline’s Intensive Rescue Soothing Hand Cream or just a good ol’ tub of Australian Emu Oil Cream. The best part? They’re all under $20! Win.
If you find you sometimes suffer from dry skin I’d love to hear how you combat it!